Large number of players still seeking employment
With the exception of the Johan Santana and Erik Bedard trade talks and another round of congressional steroid hearings, baseball's hot stove season appears to be on a straight shot toward pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training camps.There's just one issue left to be resolved: the game's rampant unemployment problem. The old Kenny Lofton routine -- waiting until after the New Year for an opportunity to present itself -- is suddenly an epidemic. Check the list of major league baseball job seekers, and you'll find dozens of familiar names still out there for the taking.
Kyle Lohse (2007)
Barry BondsIf not for his ongoing legal troubles, Bonds might actually enjoy the opportunity to sit back and watch Roger Clemens play the role of human steroid pinata this winter. The news on the employment front isn't so promising. Agent Jeff Borris issued a "no comment'' when asked about Bonds' job prospects, and that's not a good sign. Borris spent last winter talking up a storm about his client, and it was still mid-February before Bonds hooked on with San Francisco. Way back in November, Oakland looked like the only potential fit for Bonds. Then the home run champ was indicted for perjury. And now that Billy Beane has traded Dan Haren and Nick Swisher and gone with a youth movement, it's hard to see Bonds coming in and playing the role of veteran "mentor'' to the kids. True, Oakland's depth chart consists of Emil Brown, Travis Buck, Chris Denorfia and Ryan Sweeney. But the A's think Carlos Gonzalez could arrive by midseason, and there are a lot of other cheaper, more headache-free alternatives than Bonds. Here's one more thing to consider: Oakland owner Lew Wolff is good buddies with Bud Selig. Does he really want to bring Bonds back for another season and risk antagonizing his friend the commissioner when the A's are pushing for a new ballpark? Just a thought.
Livan HernandezHernandez and fellow free agent Josh Fogg, the "Dragon Slayer,'' have a perception problem: Nobody thinks they have the stuff to survive in the American League. That narrows the field of suitors considerably. Still, Hernandez has averaged 33 starts and 227 innings per year over the past 10 seasons. His durability and professionalism should help allay concerns about his weight, age and declining strikeout ratio. So what are the possibilities for Hernandez? The Mets, for starters. Among other NL clubs, Houston and Washington also need a pitching upgrade. But the Nationals have already invited 36 pitchers to major league camp, and management has shown no inclination to stray from its plan of building from within. Houston's projected rotation consists of Roy Oswalt, Woody Williams, Brandon Backe, Wandy Rodriguez and either Chris Sampson or Felipe Paulino in the fifth spot, but the Astros are in a mood to economize after adding Miguel Tejada and Jose Valverde to the payroll. If Hernandez is still jobless in mid-February, maybe owner Drayton McLane Jr. will give GM Ed Wade a few extra bucks to fortify the rotation. The Phillies, Reds and Braves are among the other clubs that could use some back-of-the-rotation insurance, but are near their budget limit.